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György Cziffra Memorial Year

Partnerships and cooperation without borders

PARIS – RADIO FRANCE, SALLE GAVEAU

NEW YORK – LINCOLN CENTER

GENEVA – VICTORIA HALL

LONDON – COVENT GARDEN, CADOGAN HALL

PRAGUE – SMETENA HALL

SENLIS – FONDATION CZIFFRA

BUDAPEST – MÜPA, LISZT ACADEMY OF MUSIC

Hungary is celebrating the 100th anniversary of the worldwide celebrated Hungarian pianist, György Cziffra’s birthday within the framework of an official Memorial Year. UNESCO also lists the jubilee as a recommended anniversary.

To commemorate Cziffra’s 100th birthday, concerts, lectures, masterclasses, children’s activities, initiatives to foster young talent will be held in the major cities and concert halls of international music life in collaboration with Hungarian and international music organisations, orchestras and the leading performers of the world. At the end of her life, the phoenix fashions a nest, sets it on fire and is consumed in its flames herself. Then a new phoenix arises from the ashes. György Cziffra’s life and work is a true reflection of the phoenix’ mission, and we sincerely hope that many more young phoenixes will be born from his ashes.   (János Balázs, artistic director)

Chief Patron: János Áder, President of the Republic of Hungary
International patron: Gérard Bekerman, President of the Fondation Cziffra
Patron: Gergely Gulyás, Minister of the Prime Minister’s Office, Andrea Vigh, President of the Liszt Academy of Music

The art of the moment

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During the Memorial Year, dozens of artists will take to the stage to pay tribute to György Cziffra  – musicians and non-musicians alike, who we can rightly be called the legends of our time: Martha Argerich, Mischa Maisky, Denis Matsuev, Mikko Franck, Fazil Say,  Gábor Takács-Nagy, Peter Eötvös and other great stars of the international music and art scene.

What binds them to Cziffra and one another? Mainly the performance practice that they all inherited and share, which deeply respects the composer’s intentions, yet will not “fossilise” into musical sculptures. While they are well aware that there is no such thing as “perfect” interpretation, they allow space for the performer’s personality and the magic of the moment.

Celebration of the improvisation

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Challenging boundaries has always belonged György Cziffra’s ethos. The art of improvisation is precisely about this inner freedom; when the emotions of the performer take shape as notes, they reach from the heart to the fingers, from the fingers to the keys and then the hammers that strike the strings. In improvisation, the player becomes unique, inimitable, special in themselves, as they become identical with what they are playing. Liszt, Chopin, Cziffra and the Romantic pianists knew this and let performers enjoy this freedom.

Meeting of genres

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György Cziffra was an authentic interpreter of the Romantic piano repertoire – Schumann, Chopin, Liszt, Brahm and Rachmaninov’s compositions – deeply rooted in European culture. A particular aim of the Memorial Year is to span a bridge between genres and art forms. Besides classical music concerts, also jazz, folk music as well as cross art-forms and various academic disciplines are featured in the programme. It was the great pianist’s vision that “the day will come when the representatives of various art forms (…) will walk hand in hand…”

Young talented artists

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Walking in Cziffra’s footsteps, during the Memorial Year, young talents are placed in the limelight by receiving the opportunity to take to the stage in Hungary and abroad.

When the profoundly respected pianist and composer and the main director of the Liszt Academy at the time, Ernő Dohnányi listened to the eight-year-old György Cziffra, he let slip the sentence that later turned into an adage: “this is not a rare treasure…, this is the Koh-i-Noor diamond itself.” The School for Exceptional Young Talents did not yet exist at the Liszt Academy, so the academic staff of the Academy registered the child prodigy as a university freshman. Having collected first-hand experienced of the “black bread” and “forced silence”, he really felt the need for talent fostering, and this might have been the motivating force behind his foundation and scholarship. This is why he had the early Gothic Chapelle Royal St Frambourg in Senlis restored, which was by no means a simple undertaking.